My banh mi blowout last week chez @Ish and @kristysf triggered a serious flare-up of my Vietnamese food obsession. Thank god Patrick Bui opened a restaurant in Napa last year, so I can actually get a hit of authentic Vietnamese flavor without having to drive to the East Bay. I've been there several times in the last couple of days to get my fix, most recently today for an early lunch with my honey.
As always at Bui Bistro, the food was spot-on, swoon-worthy, and so impossible to stop eating that I devoured every bite of our 11:30 lunch despite having had breakfast only 2 hours earlier. Today's crack arrived in the form of banana blossom salad with chicken, and the grilled pork vermicelli bowl.
I have fond memories of grilled pork vermicelli bowls from my summer of bar exam classes, when my best gay buddy and I used to walk into the Tenderloin in SF for cheap, awesome, feel-good Vietnamese lunches every day. This Bui Bistro version was even better than those, though---it had fresher more flavorful veggies, and pork that didn't require a major suspension of disbelief to have it taste like pig meat. The sweet, fish sauce-y marinade had caramelized into an enticing mahogany crust, and little crispy bits of black char at the edges of each piece confirmed (once again) that pork carcinogens are the finest tasting in all the world.
Even the delectable banana blossom salad with finely shredded cabbage, bosc pear, thai basil, and delicate paper-thin slices of chicken breast paled in comparison with the pork noodle bowl. We ate all the salad too, of course, but the vermicelli went first.
If anyone hasn't been to this place yet, go there NOW. The menu has an impressive range of different flavors and presentations, ranging from classic pho, rice plates, and noodle bowls at lunch, to 5-spice duck confit (A MUST ORDER), Saigon sweet and sour wings, shaking beef, caramelized claypot fish, and eggplant chicken at night. The ultra-fresh, delicious salads are fortunately served for both lunch and dinner. On my next visit I want to try the Vietnamese cabbage salad with calamari, which our waiter accidentally delivered to us today instead of the banana blossom salad. And perhaps the claypot fish, one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes of all time.
Food aside, though, I love this place because it is the ONLY restaurant in Napa where you can get French, German, Italian, and Austrian white wines by the glass (all $10 or less), one of which is an excellent gruner veltliner---my favorite varietal to pair with Vietnamese food. The bottle prices are reasonable, and the selection is refreshingly different from every other place in town.
Bui Bistro knows what it's doing, and I know that I'm hooked. Can't wait for my next hit.